(1 of 2. Originally posted on September 23, 2022 for the prompt “Deserted Island.”)
Read Part 2 here.
The invaders came with the tide. Shellani spotted the vessel from the south beach while giving Kaida her monthly coconut oil rub. Bigger than previous ones, it reflected light in strange ways.
Chirrrup? Kaida cocked her scaly snout to the side, the pupils of her big green eyes narrowed to a slit in the morning sun.
“We’ve got trouble, little mama,” Shellani dumped the last of the oil over Kaida’s shining golden scales. She swiped her hand down the draconi’s hindquarters, careful to slide with the scales, never against them. “You need to go round up the others and make sure they stay out of sight.”
Prrrrrrt. Kaida bumped the top of her head against Shellani’s bare stomach, her leathery wings curled forward around her guardian.
Shellani cupped one hand on each side of Kaida’s head, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I appreciate the offer, dear one, but it’s more important for you to keep out of sight. Let me handle them. Protect your children by hiding them. Hurry, now.”
Kaida lumbered away toward the heavy jungle at the center of the island, snorting out one disgruntled puff of steam.
Shellani closed her eyes, stretching her senses toward the invaders’ vessel. Iron and fire and lightning. Wild things, tamed by humankind in the thousand years since the last invasion. They would be difficult to destroy. She didn’t want to destroy them, anyway. Their lives were not any less valuable than others, including her own. A deception, then. She would lead them away, and hope she had enough strength left to swim home after.
She opened her eyes and ran across the beach into the foamy water, singing as she ran. She sang mist and confusion, even though none of the invaders had come close enough to hear it yet. She sang shadows and turnings, blindness and doubt.
A smaller vessel dropped into the water out of the large one. Several men climbed into it, and touched the lightning to start the fire. It shuddered and roared like a wounded draconi. The water behind it boiled and stirred, pushing the small vessel toward the island. Toward Shellani, who swam to meet them with a song of denial on each breath.
Their eyes transformed as they neared Shellani. A veil slipped over them, clouding their thoughts. The man at the stern turned down the fire, slowing the vessel, shouting muddled questions to the man at the bow.
Shellani angled herself to intercept the prow. She set her hands against it and pushed, straining to turn it. Her song turned breathless. Stressed. She shifted that tension back toward the invaders, making them feel anxious. An invisible burden on their shoulders, all the heavier for having no clear explanation. The smaller vessel, heavy with iron, drew a cumbersome circle back to the massive thing that had birthed it. Demanding cries from the larger vessel tapered off in confusion as Shellani’s song pulled them under, one by one.
The small party rejoined the others, their confusion multiplying as they shared it between them. Confusion sparked fear. Fear drove them to flee, confused predators seeking escape from the phantoms in their own minds. The moment the island vanished over the horizon, Shellani released the vessel and let herself drift free. They would remember only fog. Fog, and confusion, and pursuing shadows that their imaginations would inflate into sea monsters and witches and other drunken stories to garnish cheap ale in a smoky tavern. And if some sailor claimed he’d seen a dragon, those who heard it would wear their best expressions of fear and awe to show appreciation for quality entertainment, then laugh and buy the crazy old sea dog another drink.